Reflections on Jesus: One Year Later

Jarrel Oliveira
12 min readDec 28, 2023

Blessed are the poor in spirit

What’s it like to wander the valley of life aimlessly for a year? I never thought I would have to explore such a question. Not in a practical sense. Theoretically, though, I have tackled this question for decades as a follower of Christ. I have discussed with fellow believers what it must feel like to venture deep into uncharted territory, darkened sections of life, and hopeless phases of one’s journey with God or far from it.

I’ve sat for hours, days, and weeks at a time with youth groups, bible study groups, family groups, and more, discussing the death of hope, the valley of the mind, the desolation of belief, the loss of purpose, and even the potential complications of what happens in one’s heart when they contemplate suicide, and then, if the mind and heart are left untreated, what happens to the soul when one commits suicide.

The questions were numerous, the answers, even more, although unconvincing. More dogmatic than explanatory. More thought-terminating than thought-provoking. Seldom were we allowed to wonder further, deeper into the misery that seeps and creeps into the human heart because Christians, the followers of the resurrected Messiah aren’t allowed to feel… depressed, hopeless, and suicidal.

How foolish us. Of me.

Those of you who know me know that I am, and have been an astute, at times proud, and most times annoying follower of Christ. The Christian communities I have been a part of have benefited me by just how much we delved into the Bible and this strange, enigmatic, and loving first-century rabbi named Jesus, taking his words to heart and attempting to live them out here in the twenty-first century.

But this past year I have walked into what I believe is the darkest recess of my soul, a place that has been there from birth, untouched, undiscovered until this last year. I had abandoned my church family, my joy, my laughter, my writing, my devotional life, and my fervent love of bible study and theological learning, all for the sake of walking in the depravity of my darkness, lost in my fears, hate, shame, and lack of forgiveness.

This, of course, was all my doing, my failure(s), and my faults creeping up from the hell hole within my soul to drag me along with all of my hopes and dreams down to the deep dark void of despair. I allowed it all to go, to slip, to slide, into a place of harsh, bitter coldness. Friends reached out to me and I ignored them, for their well-being, I suppose. How could they benefit from pulling at an anchor? Anchors, too, are dangerous, you know.

I hid not only from friends and family but also from God. The last time I prayed was sometime in October, perhaps, of 2022. I don’t recall what the prayer was, who it was for, whether or not God heard it, but I last lifted my hands in praise and my heart in worship well over a year ago. I wanted nothing to do with God because I knew I wanted nothing to do with myself. There was nothing in me, no art, no joy, no knowledge, no longevity, no perspective, no prospect worth the time, hence, no desire to live.

I am sad that I came close. Very close to ending it all. The string that held me here, held all things together, intact, was a clause on my life insurance policy that would have prevented my family from receiving any funds should I have terminated my life.

You have to understand that when someone reaches that place of absolute desolation, of utmost internal ruination, self-loathing, self-deprecating hatred, shame, and humiliation, there is nothing, not marriage, nor children, nor friends, nor family, nor money that keeps them on this earth.

But there I was, moments away from a decision, a split second away from a momentary decision with generational — eternal — consequences, unable to move forward with that which I thought was my salvation from the gutter.

Like Elijah, I had failed, I had run, I had hid and requested an end to it all. God, for some reason, told me to shut up, though I ignored him, to get up and keep going and so I kept things moving.

I hid from everyone in my cave, my own doing, of course, and waited for another opportunity to come, to perhaps complete the harrowing decision that loomed over me day after day.

What people think is that being alone is not alone in the sense of being devoid of the presence of people. No. That’s isolation. I mean, loneliness in the presence of family and friends, is misery. Loneliness is misery, though, only for people who believe they deserve love and belonging. What I felt in my loneliness, in my broken soul, in my cave… was relief. Like a disease-carrying creature, I wanted nothing more than to die in my ruin, unable to influence anyone else in a way that might turn them down the same path. Depression spreads too, you know. It’s as contagious as any virus out there, worse because it takes a while to show, and when it does perhaps by then it’s too late.

But there… in the cave, in the comfort of my misery, a friend reached out time and again. He’s a pastor for many others but to me, perhaps at this stage of my life, this year, this guy was the only voice that penetrated my thorn-filled heart. A light gently seeping through the cracks of desolation warming and illuminating the most hellish place of my soul.

Listen, people don’t understand what it’s like to laugh with colleagues, and FaceTime friends for hours, smiling, or what it’s like to converse with family, play games with them, interact with them all, only to run to the restroom in secret to sit there, in sheer panic, tears streaming down your face, wanting nothing more than for the world to grow black around you one last time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve broken down folding laundry, the number of times I’ve looked away from fellow shoppers at the grocery store because I had tears rushing down my face, the number of times I nearly crashed my car on my drives to work and from work to home because I wept bitter tears. Tears so thick they blinded me, rage filling my heart, despairing my soul, and a desire for it all to end, day, after day, after day, for over a year.

People don’t get it. They don’t see it. They never will. I understand it. They don’t. People are just so clueless as to just how easy it is to save face… not for me, or people just like me, but for them. They wouldn’t be able to bear this burden, this inner disease, this parasite of the soul, so we hide it, right before we enter a room, right when we hug loved ones, right after we leave a room or place, we reveal the creature to ourselves and allow it to devour all of the joy we have in our hearts.

This friend, pastor to many, friend to many more, was incessant, perhaps guided by God, unbeknownst to him, even, that every attempt he made to reach me, many of which I ignored in shame, of course, kept me here.

I sat with him one day and asked for his forgiveness for I had hurt him too. When we hurt people we think deserve the pain we tend to feel justified. We want to be justified. It’s in our nature to feel right in bringing justice to wrongdoers. But when we hurt the undeserving, the least expecting, and the best of people around us, it is an unimaginable weight that we carry around with us until we can face not only the people we have hurt but ourselves, the monsters in the mirror.

He, of course, being a resplendent archetype of Jesus on earth, forgave me.

From that day on the shadow that followed me for a year, that oppressed me so gravely, that dug so deep into my soul, began to loosen its grip.

I, too, have slowly crept out and away from the cave I felt so comfortable in.

I’ve prayed, again, since, too. And today is the first day I’ve opened my Bible, any bible, for that matter, out of sheer curiosity and want. It’s so known to me and yet so perplexing a book. As is God.

What I reflect on is just how much God is willing to give us a rope to run, when we want to run. Space when we want space. Even mercy and grace when all we want is to sin…

In all, He allows it, but, what He doesn’t allow is for us to forget what He is like… especially when He is represented in His followers. We may not want to hear of God, hear people sing His praises, worship His Name, or glorify His works.

But we cannot resist the people who behave like Jesus.

It is impossible to remain unchanged in the face of someone who is known by Jesus and walks with Him in word and deed. The brokenness, hate, and hopelessness cannot remain intact when faced with the kindness of Christians who best reflect the life and love of Jesus.

Therefore, I will leave here some of the words of Christ I have always read, always taught, preached, even, but could not find refuge in throughout my time of misery… but these are words I could not resist when they were found and felt in the life of one of His followers in my life:

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he began to speak and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:1–12

43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43–48

21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you who behave lawlessly.’

24 “Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-and great was its fall!” Matthew 7:21–27

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34–35

In my darkest moment, I could never hate Jesus, dismiss His meaning to the world, or the ramifications of what a life lived as Jesus has on people… but I was too far gone into my head, the world’s most dangerous place to be.

Jesus had to send one of His most humble disciples into the pit after me to remind me, firsthand, what it feels like to feel the love of Christ warm my heart once more.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

Grateful for this friend for being a willing and humble agent of Heaven. And grateful for Christ being so persistently kind to me, day after day.

The creature that hunts and haunts me is still here, though dormant, sedated, fangless, but still here.

Perhaps something I must carry with me until the end of my journey.

I don’t think people understand the power of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Although those things look like different things to different people, and many attain them from different sources. Kudos to them. Let them thrive and bounce back from this any and every way they can.

I, however, have been snared, once more, by this first-century mystic, miracle-working, bread-multiplying, wine-drinking, party-going, friend of sinners rabbi who was executed by the state and later rose from the dead. I wasn’t scared of death. Not the way people think of death. I was scared of living in infamy and shame.

In Christ, however, no matter the failure, the fault, the sin, no matter the humiliating factor, you can find a home and love in His presence, too.

My soul is tired, having been weighed by an unnamed entity, burdened by guilt and shame, but it is now free from it all. Though free, it is tired. Tired but content. Content and curious, once more, about this Jesus.

Disclaimer: If you or anyone you know is dealing with suicidal ideations or thoughts of self-harm, please contact your local emergency services, hotlines, and support groups. Therapy and physician-prescribed and supervised medication are a crucial part of someone’s mental, emotional, and yes, spiritual well-being and recovery.

I look forward to my first session as well. One day.

I understand the hollowing of the soul, the emptying of all desire for life. Trust me, I do. The desire to resist all help. I understand.

I understand, too, the gnawing desire to always find one or another reason to stick around, no matter how meaningless.

Know that you are loved. If you’ve lost your way you can find your way back. If you’ve faltered you can be redeemed. If you’ve sinned, you, too, can be forgiven.

Oh, and that friend, that preacher-theologian who was the best representation of Christ I have ever experienced in my life is none other than Pastor Rohan Samuels of Freedom Life Church in Edmonton.

If you ever get the chance to meet the guy and the community he’s part of you’ll understand what it means to meet people who live and breathe Christ on earth.

“5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5–10

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. — Proverbs 31:8 NLT

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Originally published at on December 28, 2023.



Jarrel Oliveira

Husband | Girl Dad x4 | Dude | Dilettante | Blogger | Brazilian living in Canada. Life motto: Jesus said cool things.